County, federal officials join local economic development roundtable

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Once again Pittsburgh and the surrounding area were in the presence of Washington, D.C. officials as Matt Erskine, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development and Willie C. Taylor, U.S. Economic Development Administration Regional Director provided a listening ear to area business, academic and non-profit community movers and shakers.

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A MIX OF TOP OFFICIALS—Pleased with the results of the roundtable; Willie C. Taylor, U.S. Economic Development Administration Regional Director, Matt Erskine, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development take a moment to ponder the outcomes with Ruth Byrd-Smith, Allegheny County Department of Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Director and Howard B. Slaughter Jr., president and CEO of Christian Management Enterprises, LLC. (Photo by Diane I. Daniels)

In town last week to participate in an economic development roundtable, Erskine said the information he received will be valuable as his team and the administration develop initiatives and policies.

“It is exciting and a value to hear issues, opportunities and challenges from experts when we travel around the country.” Attendees openly shared Western Pennsylvania’s successes and challenges in economic development, job growth and challenged the federal government’s agenda and priorities.

The roundtable, coordinated by Howard B. Slaughter Jr., PhD was hosted and chaired by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. This was the second of a series of Economic Development Administration roundtables Slaughter plans to organize.

“The efforts of the EDA to lead the economic agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nations’ regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy are paramount to the economic viability of Southwestern Pennsylvania,” he stated. “Effective economic development often is the impetus for macro social inclusion and market productivity, both key components for long term achievability and sustainability.”

Discussion took place around Western Pennsylvania’s emerging energy sector, the need for federal investment in infrastructure, innovation and advanced manufacturing and how the federal government can support through funding and policy spin-off companies from local colleges and universities.

Happy to welcome Secretary Erskine and Director Taylor to Allegheny County to learn about successes and to discuss how to work together to further strengthen the regional economy Fitzgerald said, “Our region has succeeded in creating jobs and new businesses in large part because of the partnerships we have forged among government, business, labor, non-profits and foundations.”

Pin pointing the Marcellus Shale development and other energy sources as a remarkable economic opportunity for our region, Fitzgerald emphasized the need for workforce training and development funding from the federal government to help equip local residents with the skills needed to obtain jobs in the energy sector. He also mentioned how the colleges are doing a good job at attracting and training new talent but transportation and infrastructure is an issue.

Taylor, who participated in the previous roundtable discussion pointed out that the issues, concerns and

successes are what they are looking for to take back to address and create solutions. He and Erskine said they see good things occurring in the region and that under the president’s leadership they look to continue to be partners and look forward to greater things.

The Secretary discussed the Obama Administration’s multi-agency strategy to streamline assistance to businesses and leverage federal funding to support economic development. He also mentioned how his agency’s work to improve the federal grant process for businesses, as well as the creation of regional innovation clusters, an advanced manufacturing job accelerator, and $1 billion national advanced manufacturing network.

The mission of the EDA is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting innovation and competitiveness, preparing American regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy.

Pleased with the results of the two roundtables, Slaughter, the President and CEO of Christian Management Enterprises, LLC, said his next venture may be a major public campaign to heighten the level of awareness on the challenges individuals with disabilities face who are 21 and over. He explained that some services are automatically lost at the age of 21 but still needed to continue. “The next forum may include discussion on legislative policy changes so these individuals aren’t disconnected, discounted and services discontinued because of their age,” he said.

Christian Management Enterprises is a global management company focused on real estate, strategic planning, fundraising, economic development, board development training and financial literacy training.

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